Sunday, 19 January 2014

Welcome to Kenya!

Airports in Africa are a wee bit different than the rest of the world.  We arrived at the Johannesburg Airport expecting a 5 hour gap between flights (which had just been delayed by another 2 hours).  In Canada, changing flights would involve time, a detailed formal process, and most likely additional fees… not in Africa!   

When Mark inquired about the delay the fellow at the counter made a call on is cellphone, pushed some buttons on his computer keypad and ripped up our boarding passes in front of us.   He escorted us past a line of people, moved us through the security women at the gate to his ‘friend’ who printed us new boarding passes for the plane leaving right away.  The luggage was weighed and tagged and we were told to “run” to the security gate.  Our carry-on bags were pushed through the security monitor in seconds and we were boarding the plane with no time for a washroom break.  Our boarding passes were actually printed off after the time we were to be boarding the plane.  The plane had been delayed (imagine that), which was the only way we were able to get tickets on this earlier flight. We couldn’t believe how quick and easy the transfer to an earlier flight was at the airport. 

We were the last to board the brand new plane and were wined and dined the whole trip.  Mark ordered a Heineken and was handed two.  I ordered a Coke and the same thing happened, even the packages of nuts came in twos.  Another fellow let us use his cellphone to let Antonina and Auntie Marilyn know we would be arriving early.  It was a whirlwind of activity, but I must say I would fly Kenyan Airlines anytime!

The Nairobi Airport was a whole different world and our adventures in Kenya had officially begun.  The airport was under massive construction due to a large fire that made international news.  The new building was large, yet I only saw 10 or so construction workers.  Hard hats were optional and so were shoes!  I thought about the number of workers you would see on a building that size at home and figured at that rate, the new airport would be a long time coming.  We walked off the plane and down to the tarmac, where we walked for 5 minutes before boarding a people mover to travel to the terminal.  We passed container after container of luggage with various workers attending to them in neon vests.  One took a break sitting next to the silver corrugated metal wall - topped with barbed wire, and removed his shoes.  The metal was shiny and new and had not yet taken on the tired look of everything else we saw.

We filled out our visa paperwork (which appeared to be 1970's vintage) and met Auntie Marilyn and Antonina on the other side of customs and immigration.  The process for getting a Visa was different for each one of us.  Mark had finger and thumb prints taken on both hands.  I had my picture taken, prints of my right hand only and no thumb prints.  Ally had no picture and no prints… I lost track of what happened with Meghan, but I’m fairly confident all I did was hand them $50 US for hers, which the officer promptly tucked into her bra! (She wasn't pocketing the money, that was just where she kept it - so much for a cash box)
The Nairobi Airport.  See the people standing to the left - that was where you filled out a form for your visa.

Awww family, we are so lucky!
The next challenge was loading all of the luggage, groceries and six people into the rental car.  Not rental SUV, rental van or rental Land Rover, but a rental car! What a sight we were, heading down the highway.  We were packed to the rafters, the eggs were in the glove compartment and we kept bottoming out as we went over the speed bumps. Yet, the more we looked around, the more we realized we had a pretty nice ride! The rental would get us around town comfortably after we dumped off the luggage, but it would not suffice for the voyage to the village. The potholes in Nairobi were big enough to swallow small children, so I can just imagine what we will face in the countryside!  It did have air conditioning though, which would be welcomed during the day and would allow us to keep our windows up, avoiding the diesel fumes and dust that created a blanket of smog.
Antonina trying to figure out how on earth all that luggage will fit in the vehicle.
We took in the sights of the market stalls, slums, garbage, animals and masses of people as we weaved our way along the highway.  Thank goodness Antonina was behind the wheel. Even after driving 20, 000 km through Europe, Mark refused to drive here!  It is like no other country we have visited so far.  People selling anything from lamps, furniture, mangoes to board games crowded the car when we stopped at an intersection. They were even on the 4 lane freeway in bumper to bumper traffic. Can you imagine being stopped in a traffic jam and a couch being offered up to your window?  It was the end of the workday and everyone was making their way home, whether it be hanging out of the public taxis or trekking their way on foot (It seemed like mass migration to Mark).  Two people on a motorcycle were transporting their new mattress, and made us all stare, then laugh out loud. We were amazed at the sights on the first day. Nairobi had been quite the adventure already, and we had only just arrived!

Taken right outside the airport, check out the cows!

Care for a lamp?  Or how about some snacks?
There are actually two people on this motorcycle, along with the mattress!


  1. Love the way they transport mattresses...and glad you got the picture!! have fun and stay safe!

  2. Making me very nostalgic for my time in Tanzania. Watch out for the passing vehicles! Keep up the great stories!

    1. We took an eleven hour bus ride from Nairobi to the coast. We paid an additional $2.00 for first-class which put us in the front seats of the bus….not sure if that was an upgrade or not Jeff, as we saw every vehicle coming right at us….it was an 11 hour game of chicken! What an amazing ride though, the sights we saw were like nothing we have ever experienced before. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!


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